UK usergroup January meet up

Last Wednesday, 25 people squeezed into our meeting room in Scrutton Street

31st January 2010

We were split more or less evenly between end users and developers/implementors, and between current and new users. There was a definite Drupal bias in the room, but there were some vocal Joomla implementors too. It was good to see familiar faces from last years developer camp and user training, as well as people that have started using CiviCRM in the past few months, and those that are just starting out.

After a quick round of introductions and a tour of some key CiviCRM functionality and new features in 3.1 (including dashboards and contact subtypes) we moved on to a discuss themes that attendees had requested we cover on the Wiki. Below I've tried to give a flavour of the event by pulling out the main themes and giving my thoughts on them. Would be great for you to fill in the gaps in bits I've missed, and to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Developing new functionality

We discussed possibilities and strategies for developing new functionality, how UK developers could collaborate around functionality, and how to improve the UK's capacity to develop more for CiviCRM. We spent a good deal of time talking about a Giftaid implementation. Alan Sparkes from Joomkit, Andrew Godfrey from Alpha International and I (on behalf of St Ethelburga's) had met earlier in the afternoon to finalise a Giftaid specification on the Wiki. Around the room were at least three other organsiations interested in (or already developing) Giftaid functionality, including Millertech (hosts of last years developer camp and usergroup). Plans are now underway to co-ordinate these efforts and anyone that needs a Giftaid solution should get in contact with either Richard Slade at Millertech or myself at Third Sector Design.

Dave Morton from Circle Interactive talked about improvements to multi-org that they have been working on with the Core team, sponsored by Oliver Gibson and Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation (GMCVO) . Another great example of a UK non-profit sponsoring functionality in CiviCRM is Alpha International's work on contact subtypes that has just been released in 3.1. We also talked about the recent improvements steered by a few UK developers and implementors to rationalise and improve the 'State/Province/County' field for the UK (see this issue).

Other areas ripe for new functionality are UK specific payment processors (SagePay, WorldPay) and direct debit providers (Rapid Data) that will help end our reliance on PayPal, and also more sophisticated Activity reporting which would benefit many UK voluntary sector organisations. Oliver Gibson and I are co-ordinating funding around activity reporting - please see this wiki page and get in contact if this would be of use to your organisation.

Improving UK infrastructure

We had a fair amount of questions about how to find support and developers in the UK, and how to contact other organisations using CiviCRM to find out about their experiences. We identified a few key areas where we could improve and discussed details of a UK specific site to help people navigate around the UK community.

A lot of these ideas have been discussed before but we seem to have some real momentum behind them this time, with Dave Moreton from Circle interactive offering to put time into a UK site, and offers of Webinars from Dominik Lukes from Dyslexia Action and lots of good ideas, energy and guidance from our facilitator, Rob Stead.

For me, the key question is what is UK specific, and what do we need to improve on In developing new sites and pages we need to:

  • avoid repetition and duplication/dilution of content on
  • build as much as possible in partnership with
  • make it as easy as possible for other national CiviCRM groups to take advantage of what we create

The CiviCRM team are totally receptive to offers of help with and to expanding it to cater for the UK (and other countries) and are ready for your input. A UK site will only be possible with the help of UK people, so don't count your chickens and don't watch this space, just step up and get involved and help out :)

Future meetings

We talked about how we could improve meet-ups. This meeting tended toward the developer/implementor discussion and I felt we could have addressed end-users needs better. Julie R suggested more user-focused meet ups with practical demonstrations and Q+A around the software. It is likely we'll split future meet ups into:

  • CiviCRM showcase - where we demo key CiviCRM features and new functionality (Millertech have been running a series of these sessions at their offices in Kings Cross and we are hoping to build on these sessions) introducing people to the software so they can evaluate whether it is a good fit for them, and talk to others using the software.
  • CiviCRM community sessions - (similar to this session) where we can discuss how to improve the community, fund developments, etc.

Attendees were also keen on re-starting meetings outside of London, with Oliver Gibson in Manchester and Dave Moreton in Bristol offering to host meet-ups in their neck of the woods. And Richard McMillan from Timebank offering to host the next London usergroup at their offices.

I think that is about it from this meetup. Special thanks to Rob Stead for expertly facilitating the meeting. Until we have our UK pages up and running on CiviCRM, the best place for UK specific chat is still on our UK forum board.